Dan Tracey | Freelance Football Broadcaster & Analyst

Inside Football Media
7 min readMar 20, 2024

Hi Dan, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you currently do?

I currently am a freelance writer with quite a diverse portfolio of clients. This means my work will be split across writing match previews for betting companies, data journalist-style content for one client in particular, and some SEO/editing work where required. In addition to this, I also host my own weekly football podcast called the ‘Real Football Cast’ which has been live since 2018.

You’ve been freelancing for six years, congratulations! How did you originally find the transition and can you share the highs and lows of freelance life?

The transition was not a smooth one, but it was certainly a necessary one. I was stuck in an office job that I hated and concluded that if I was ever going to work in this industry, I was going to have to take a leap of faith, so to speak. Therefore, I left the security of a full-time data analyst job in London and started with the blankest of canvases.

Since that leap, it has been nothing short of a rollercoaster of emotions, but ultimately, it is a lifestyle that I would not swap for the world. The highs remind you why you do it; the lows only spur you to keep going. The fact that I have been a freelancer for six years now is a testament to what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.

Freelancing can be a lonely environment at times. Still, it can also pair you together with some incredible people, and with no two weeks ever the same as each other, it is that unknown quantity that keeps the freelance flame ignited for me.

What does a ‘typical’ week look like for you?

A typical week is busy, but as any freelancer will tell you, there is always that internal debate about whether I am busy enough versus being too busy. If there is any doubt, you are never too busy as a freelancer, which ultimately means rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.

Currently, that work consists of research regarding weekend results/performances/stats and how that will tie into the upcoming copy that needs to be created. The research may be as simple as watching Match of the Day, but it may be as difficult as building a unique statistical model upon request; a typical week also means wearing plenty of different hats.

That work also circles back to writing, but I have also managed to diversify away from football along the way. The more niches you can be comfortable writing in, the more opportunities will come your way. Freelancers sometimes overlook or are unaware of how helpful this can be, so never shut yourself off on what you think can do.

You’re the founder and host of Real Football Cast, can you tell our readers about the podcast channel and the reason why you started it?

The Real Football Cast is a weekly podcast where I and a panel of guests dissect the latest goings on within the world of the Premier League. Each episode is 60 minutes long, and every game is covered in some form of detail along the way.

There are over 230 episodes in the archive now, and you can find it on all the usual podcast platforms. This project is one of my proudest as it has allowed me to become a podcast host for companies on a paid basis rather than just working as a hobby.

It began because the whole football content journey started with the website realfootballman.com, which I launched back in 2015. It is still sitting somewhere in a dusty corner of the internet, and back in 2018, I thought a podcast would be a natural progression from the website.

Simply put, I just love talking about football, and if anyone reads this and is looking for a voice to hire, then feel free to get in touch.

How do you generally go about finding new work/clients?

I think my approach has evolved over the last few years. If you had asked me back in 2018, the approach would have been far less measured. Honestly, it would be nothing more than pestering editors via email and asking for a job.

However, over the years, I have learned that when emailing somebody with a relatively cold pitch. You must highlight what you can do and the value you can offer them rather than simply asking for a writing gig.

Give editors/employers a hook and a reason to pique their interest — that can come through the creation of a portfolio which allows you to highlight your best work and offer a snapshot of what you are about.

This last year or so, I have been incredibly fortunate that my current employers have all contacted me. They say you create your own luck, and although sometimes there is an element of right place, right time, you also have to create an incredibly good body of work.

With that said, as any good or bad freelancer knows, their luck may go against them from time and time, and if you find yourself with a dry spell in terms of clients, then you have to go back to networking on platforms like LinkedIn as a way to remind people you are still in the game.

Knowing what to charge can be difficult for freelancers, especially those just starting out. Do you have any advice to share regarding rates?

Arguably, the most sensitive topic in football freelancing is rates and how much to charge. To those starting, the one thing I would say is, PLEASE do not work for free. I appreciate the trade-off against ‘exposure’, but there is still no excuse for no financial remuneration for your efforts.

If you are to work for free, always work for yourself. With the available tools and technology, you can just as quickly build your own website/data-viz/social media accounts and level up that way. Invest in yourself if companies will not invest in you.

Now that I am off my high horse, a more general tip is that because freelancing is never one size fits all, the best thing is to work out what you need to earn each week/month and see what pieces of the jigsaw are going to get you to that figure.

For example, if you have four pieces of work that will get you over that figure and a new client offers you a piece of work for slightly less than what you usually earn, you are at least able to take it and bank some extra funds. The win here is another client/contact on the books and further experience for yourself.

Fundamentally, you need to value yourself because if you do not, then you are going to find the world of freelancing incredibly hard. Remember, it is okay to turn down the work offer if it does not suit you. You do not have to accept everything that comes your way.

What general tips would you give to individuals looking to pursue a freelance writing career in the football or sport industry?

If I were to give my honest advice to the 2017/18 version of me, I would say do not become a sports writer because the industry is incredibly brutal right now. Rates are down across the board; AI is coming for us all, and there is always another round of layoffs happening somewhere.

At the same time, it is not my position to gatekeep the industry, and I am always happy to help where I can. If you are mad enough to give this a go, then my advice would be more straightforward than you think. It is not just working to a consistently high standard, but it is meeting deadlines and being a nice person to work with. The latter of these three tips opens more doors for you than you may first think.

Can you share 3 useful tools or resources which you find helpful to fulfil your role?

Freelance Football Opportunities was an absolute godsend during Covid. Those gigs kept me going during some pretty rough times, and I am very grateful for the continual running of this newsletter.

LinkedIn is another good one when you get past the vanity posting. If you like what someone says or does on there, tell them, and you can quickly make some important contacts in the industry.

Twitter used to be a good platform before Elon ruined it, so stats websites such as FBRef.com are helpful, especially if you plan on working on your own football-based projects.

What do you do to switch off outside of work?

Outside of work, I am also a part of Newcastle Blue Star’s media department. This means I am responsible for writing match previews, programme notes, and post-match interviews with players and management as we bid to make it back-to-back promotions at the end of the season.

When completely out of the football environment, I like to travel, go on long walks followed by a good Sunday Roast with the family, and binge-watch something on Netflix.

And finally, Dan, where can people find you on social media to connect?

You can find me on Twitter(x) @dantracey1983 and @realfootballpod.

Or you can find me on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/dantracey/.

For any upcoming football projects where you need written or vocal resources, or even if you simply need some further freelance advice, please feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading.

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